ALDOUS HARDING IN NEW YORK, JUNE 2017. STYLING: DANIA ORTIZ. TOP: STELLA McCARTNEY. JEANS: CALVIN KLEIN JEANS. EARRINGS: JENNIFER FISHER. NECKLACE AND BOOTS: ALEXANDER WANG. HAIR: PANOS PAPANDRIANOS USING ORIBE/THE WALL GROUP. MAKEUP: MAKI RYOKE USING CHANEL LES BEIGES/STREETERS. MANICURE: YUKIE MIYAKAWA FOR CHANEL LE VERNIS/KATE RYAN INC.
Considering how riveting a performer she is, it’s surprising to hear that Aldous Harding resisted becoming a musician. “In my mind, I was never going to have the things I wanted if I played music for a living, unless I became a rock star,” says the 26-year-old singer-songwriter. The daughter of two musicians, she witnessed firsthand the reality of the artist’s struggle. But after receiving a guitar from her father on her 20th birthday, the New Zealand native taught herself to play and began to write in earnest. Two albums later, it seems she’s found her calling. “When you’re young and starting out, a lot of artists think they know exactly who they are,” she says. “There are others who come out in someone else’s skin. They learn to take it off bit-by-bit and work out the core of what they’re trying to say. And then there are people like me, who just don’t give a shit.”
It shows, in a good way, on her sophomore album, Party, released earlier this summer via 4AD. The songs retain some of the haunting, goth-folk mood of her 2014 self-titled debut, but with production help from John Parish (PJ Harvey, Perfume Genius), the arrangements are more complex and varied, bringing to the fore Harding’s voice. And what a voice it is. Her range spans smoky whisper, forceful croon, childlike whine, and sweet vibrato, as if she’s playing a different character on each song. The lyrics are less timid this time out, delivering the kind of ruthless introspection that comes with growing up. “On this record, I feel a lot calmer and stronger,” she says. “I don’t need to hide behind anything because I’m more comfortable with myself. I stuck with my gut and what I thought the songs needed. I wasn’t scared of anything.”